Barbara Slater

Horse racing on the BBC - an update (14)

Firstly apologies to those who've responded to the blog and not received a reply. My excuse is a very busy summer of sport, annual leave and a broken ankle!

I will now try to answer as many of your comments as possible.

Dear Rob
You ask why we are decreasing our racing coverage - primarily we are being reactive to our audiences. The number of people watching racing on television has declined. Viewers now have massive choice. We need to react to their changing demands or they switch off or over.

We have dropped what we consider a number of weaker meetings, those meetings which have seen the most acute decline in recent years.

I clearly haven't convinced you but we continue to be committed to racing and will continue (subject to future rights negotiation) to televise 36 race meetings/days.

Of these 10 are racing's crown jewel events from Aintree, Ascot and Epsom.

In addition, we are hoping to be doing a further 26 meetings/days as part of a year-round commitment to the sport. We recognise the importance that these other meetings have in satisfying our racing audience as well as building to and complimenting our coverage of the major meetings.

Although reduced from previous years this remains a significant investment which many other sports would view with envy.

Dear John
You asked if we were in danger of losing the rights to Aintree, Epsom and Ascot. Please be assured they remain at the heart of our sports portfolio and we will vigorously defend our ownership of the rights.

Can I also reiterate that we were keen to cover the Glorious meeting after our contract had expired in 2006. However, it appears Goodwood will be part of a wider C4 total racing deal.

Dear Geordie-racer
Thank you for your points re: collaboration. We are looking at the possibility of extending our racing coverage on other BBC digital channels and via Interactive.

Dear Stephen
You asked if double-headers were no longer part of our future strategy - we haven't changed our policy, although the difficulty of co-ordinating the calendar in 2006 has meant fewer double-headers in comparison with 2005.

We are very much hoping this problem will be resolved in 2007.

Dear Jenny
You mention that we need to show a commitment to minority sports.

By the end of 2006 we will have transmitted 70 hours of racing coverage on network TV during the year.

A small reduction in this will allow us to show a larger range of sports. What about the likes of cycling, swimming, gymnastics - all mass participation sports who are clambering for more coverage and air time.

Showing a wider range of sports is something that is part of our Public Service remit. We need to appeal to all audiences.

Dear Gary and Alan
Re: your reference to C4's shaky commitment to racing - they have also been impacted by the decline in the those wanting to watch racing on TV. It's an issue for all mainstream broadcasters.

I'm sure there are other points that I haven't addressed as fully as you all would like, but I hope I've gone some way to answering your comments - and getting the hang of this blog thing! (I'll be back on Monday)

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Still waiting for an update on this post!

kind regards

  • 2.
  • At 02:41 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • john wrote:

Dear Barbara
I would like to make a few comments, I believe you have made some valid points and some poor points.

We are always told that the BBC should not focus on ratings so your argument that "The number of people watching racing on television has declined. Viewers now have massive choice. We need to react to their changing demands or they switch off or over." is flawed. Are you only going to listen when viewers switch off, what about those people that do watch your excellent racing coverage, listen to them not the people who do switch off when racing comes on. Racing has never really had the millions and millions of viewers that other sports have apart from the big events but such pressures should not effect the BBC.
You say that your coverage has been reduced. Infact it has been slaughterd, and I find totally ironic that just as your racing coverage has reached new levels of excellence you should choose to decimate it. Racing goes on all year round, and with your level of coverage now decimated you can not tell the story through the whole year, that Barbara is not commitment but lip service. Racing is the largest sport outside football in this country, bigger than some of the other sports you mention. However i like the fact fact that you have picked up on the fact that you have interactive and other channels. Racing has been shown on BBCi before from Dubai. This would or could mean that you could put some other meetings on BBC3 or BBCi, and tell the story all year through. Or showcase some of the other sports on BBC3 or BBCi. Roger Mosey keeps going on about interactive and this would be a good way to supplement your 36 days on just BBC1.
As far as Goodwood goes you could fight harder to keep it and could offer a vast amount of coverage to one of Britains most important tracks. I find it a disgrace that you are still prepared to let it go.

  • 3.
  • At 04:37 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Terry wrote:


Thanks for, finally, replying.

You could be described in racing parlance, as a slow starter.

Can I ask you one question:

Do you enjoy horse racing as a sport?


  • 4.
  • At 06:14 PM on 04 Sep 2006,
  • Barbara Slater, Head of General Sport wrote:

Hello Terry,
Yes I do enjoy racing as a sport and my association goes back many years, first as an assistant producer in the 80's and then as a director in the 90's. One of my most cherished memories as a director was being 'in the chair" for Frankie's magnificent 7.

Hello John,
You are right to say that the BBC should not solely focus on ratings and we don't. It is however part of the overall picture. I agree Racing is a major sport but we do feel that even with a reduction in output Racing still enjoys a significant level of coverage on the BBC. I agree the quality of the coverage has improved over recent years this has been as a direct result of us increasing the number of cameras as well as extra investment in VT and graphics.

  • 5.
  • At 01:04 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • Gary Ecclestone wrote:

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for your replies.

Could I ask if the BBC, whilst letting some rights go, are in fact still interested in acquiring new broadcast rights? One blogger mentioned the future of rights for Doncaster, for instance, with the opportunity of covering another Classic in addition to the Derby and Oaks.

Could I also press you on the issue of digital platforms. Did you consider the possibility of covering Goodwood over a mix of BBC 1/2 and digital platforms in negotiations with the Goodwood, before you simply gave it all away to C4? Is this actually a 'done deal'?

In addition could I ask if there is a strategy for covering races from France and Ireland which have always featured as part of the BBC's coverage. The approach to international racing has seemed to be rather haphazard and it would be good to know what your thoughts are on the future of coverage of, say, the Arc, Irish Derby, Irish Grand National, what about the Galway Festival etc



  • 6.
  • At 08:08 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • john wrote:

Dear Barbara

I have to disagree the reduction in output does not mean Racing still enjoys a significant level of coverage on the BBC It means that you can not tell the whole story of racing through the year and is lip service. You should be ashamed that you are cutting back so much. I frankly don't believe that a small reduction in the ammount of racing you show will allow you to show a larger range of sports including the likes of cycling, swimming, gymnastics and yes they are all mass participation sports who are clambering for more coverage and air time. But as Roger Mosey has said and keeps saying and banging on about you have interactive you have other BBC channels how about putting some of that to use and tell the story of racing through the year as it should be told. I believe that you are wrong to simply let Channel Four take Goodwood put up a fight. I know Barbara you do enjoy racing as a sport and that you have been involved for many years. That is why I am shocked and saddened that you are willing to let Goodwood go so cheaply and see your coverage decimated so badly. After all the hard work you have put in and this is where we agree in the Graphics and presentation you simply rollover.

I did read with interest a story that said you wanted to extend even further your rights to the National and Derby but that the course were planning on grouping these rights together with other smaller meetings which would test your commitment to racing. Will you confirm or deny this.

I also would be interested on knowing if you would be interested in acquiring new broadcast rights, myself being from Doncaster it would be great to see the BBC there in the future.

  • 7.
  • At 05:15 PM on 09 Sep 2006,
  • terry wrote:

it's not just tv where the attitude to racing is disappointing

I looked on your website late on saturday afternoon, and there was a very brief report on the st leger (yet no starting prices in the report)

and even worse, nothing at all on the irish champion stakes

clearly south african rugby, spanish cycling and sheffield ice hockey is more important

why is this?

sounds good, here also good...


  • 9.
  • At 12:26 AM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • matthew stamp wrote:

yes ur right but id rather watch the arch on bbc than atr and so on so 4th because of the better coverage ur on the course all the program dedicated 2 thart meet no more and the comentery and pictuers r bettewr than skys

  • 10.
  • At 08:42 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • John Mountney wrote:

Dear Barbara,
The beeb's interest in racing has been in decline for many years and my late father (who died in 1987)would have been so angry.

The paradox is that a broadcaster with the best commentators and cameramen is the very same that fails to understand the appeal of racing.

There are millions of working men and women on average pay or less who would have watched BBC Racing as often as it was available.

Not for them the luxury of satellite TV, the internet, or other new technology, but the love of the sport
and a little flutter.

These are the kind of regular viewers who are ignored but pay their license fee for the benefit of more diverse culture lovers.

Horse racing enthusiasts should be getting a fair crack of the whip from the BBC.

I have only one criticism of the racing cover we do is still too sanitized,still treated by the BBC as a social occasion,with the betting aspect only covered in discreet fashion.

Racing is about thrills and spills, daring sportsmen, elegant noble horses, and it would benefit enormously from thrilling stories of big wins from small stakes by ordinary working folk.

Racing is undersold because you do not take on board people with experience of punting at it's grass roots,in the betting shops.

The Sport of Kings has always depended on the betting shop punter and their war with the bookie! It really is David v Goliath, and the latter has a very unfair advantage.
There is real drama here and it is so badly overlooked.

Best wishes,

John Mountney

  • 11.
  • At 12:15 PM on 31 Oct 2006,
  • neil hudson wrote:

no other channel can cover racing like the bbc the whole team are so professional and knowledgeable and having the best commentator in the country with jim mcgrath how dissapointing to hear then that the beeb have lost goodwood one of the most major meetings of the year to the absolute useless bunch at channel instead of hearing the excellent bbc's jim mcgrath calling them home,we will now have to hear the likes of gee gee or thomo or one of the other useless ones on channel 4 rambling on.may i surgest you try and get it back at all cost. what racing fans want is more racing on the beeb not less

  • 12.
  • At 03:14 AM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Mark Suttle wrote:

Hello there

I have just been reading your reply to Rob (posted sept 1)and I am Completely SHOCKED that you say that 'Your changing for the veiwer' i know for a fact that more people watch horse racing than bowls, swimming, cross country running (horses and humans) etc I think that the bbc should ask the real veiwer and not just old people or people in the countryside .

  • 13.
  • At 08:52 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Clive wrote:

Now that you have officially lost Goodwood do you have any plans to replace Goodwood coverage with the Galway Festival which takes place the same week.

Even if you don't show it everyday atleast show the Galway Plate and the other featured races of the meeting.

  • 14.
  • At 10:46 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

On today's programme from Ascot, Clare mentioned that, in with the coverage of the Welsh National at Chepstow, the BBC will also be showing two races from the second day of the Kempton Christmas meeting.

I would like to say that, whether the BBC or the courses had this idea, it clearly makes sense for it to have been taken up.

Whether the audience for racing on terrestrial is declining or not (the decision of C4 not to cover the second day suggests that there is at least something in this argument), it doesn't make a lot of sense for BBC and C4 to cover racing at the same time as generally happened on 27 December (and of course on other Saturdays in the year).

Perhaps this arrangement could be extended in future plans. For example, might C4 give up covering on Saturdays when the BBC is on air (in return for the BBC covering six races to cover the Scoop 6)? Perhaps some BBC days could move to Sundays and cover some of the big Irish and French races which we used to see at the same time?

As C4 seem not to like covering a lot of the big midweek meetings, or insist on these starting really early, maybe the BBC could take some of these on, while Saturday meetings at the courses could be still be televised by C4.

As a separate matter, will the BBC be seeking to extend its Haydock contract beyond 2007?

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